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Kids make the best holiday helpers

Happy Holidays from Rainbows

Entertaining for the holidays involves plenty of planning and preparation, in addition to all the shopping for gifts and house cleaning. Not surprisingly, the youngest guests may get the least amount of attention. Here are a few ideas to make sure even the youngest members of the family feel special and included in the celebration.

For Thanksgiving, make sure the kids’ table has a fun and edible centerpiece. A cheese ball shaped like a turkey, a cheese tray turkey, or a turkey fruit platter makes a tasty focal point. Fill paper cups with assorted crayons, pencils and pens and set at each place. A simple paper table cover can double as drawing paper or you can print turkey-themed coloring and activity pages. Pinecone turkeys are a quick craft to keep small hands busy.

Teens stay occupied with a more challenging coloring page. A fall leaf lantern craft will be a fun diversion for any older child. Have the young pilgrims string fall-colored beads for pretty napkin rings. These are so nice, the grown-ups may want one, too. Put a deck of cards and a few board games close by so kids can keep the fun going while adults are finishing their meal. After dinner, a hike to a nearby park or game of catch in the backyard can work off some of the extra calories.

Desserts with a younger flair are turkey gelatin or pudding cups, rice krispie treat pumpkins, or turkey Oreos. Get kids involved by letting them help with cooking and assembly. As your young guests leave, make sure to give them a sweet sendoff with a candy cornucopia.

While the children are on Winter Break, try cookie and candy baking. Something super simple like Reindeer Chow or Pretzel Treats are a great start. If baking from scratch isn’t your thing, buy sugar cookie dough and let the young ones go with cutters and loads of frosting and sprinkles. One of my favorite quick recipes is Chocolate Peppermint Cake Mix Cookies. These are an easy rendition of thumbprint cookies. Grocery stores have several varieties of dipped Oreos in stock now. Use all that icing and decorations to make Santa’s, reindeer or snowmen.

Crafts come together easily with just a few items, like Popsicle sticks, buttons, markers and glue. I have made sleds, Christmas trees, sparkling stars and reindeer, to name a few. Make easy tree ornaments with pipe cleaners and beads or pom poms. Candy canes and wreaths are fun starters for young hands. Simple DIY gifts for teachers and school friends could be Santa cups, Jingle Bell necklaces, and pencil (or crayon) initial frames.

Decorate the kids’ Christmas table in a fun and functional way, with festive Christmas stockings as napkin/silverware holders. Buy colorful socks and stuff one inside the toe of the other. Add a few inexpensive trinkets or toys to fill out the stocking. Try a color or themed table, like peppermints, snowmen or Santa. Add a table runner down the center that your kids have decorated with fabric puffy paint. Place a table top Christmas tree in the center and surround with mini gift-wrapped packages filled with dollar store finds. Construction paper cutouts make easy place cards. Add each child’s name, so they know where to sit.

While adult guests enjoy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, let the younger set party with a festive fruit platter and a cranberry lemon-lime mocktail or popular Grinch punch. After the meal, treat children to reindeer Oreo balls or brownie Christmas trees. Goodie bags filled with purchased candies will send the youngsters off with stars in their eyes.

My family always plans an elegant New Year’s Eve dinner in the dining room, complete with our best dishes, elegant menu and dressy clothes. Serve juice in wine or champagne glasses (maybe plastic!), so the younger set can propose toasts, just like the grownups. Food selections might be Cornish game hens, petite filets or shrimp cocktail. Start a conversation about dreams and resolutions for the coming year. Hint: Write them down. You are 42 percent more likely to achieve them!

Whatever you do…don’t overdo! Just pick one or two DIY ideas that strike your fancy and plan a fun and peaceful celebration. Allowing the kids to help will bring them joy and you some much needed family time. Happy Holidays!

-Carol Martin, Finance Department, Rainbows United

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